South Kingstown – Police Chief Vincent Vespia on Tuesday addressed the Town Council concerning an expansion of parking in Matunuck along Matunuck Beach Road.
“Those existing parking ordinances in Matunuck are bizarre at best,” said Vespia. “They identify areas and property lines – areas of the parking restrictions in terms of the corner of the lot owned by somebody who had passed away years ago and the property had changed hands several times. It’s really, really confusing.”
The Chief testified that he and the director of public services developed a concept that may be workable in Matunuck to expand the available parking.
Traffic engineering studies recommended
The Chief, recommended that a traffic engineering firm be hired to study all of the existing parking ordinances in Matunuck and offered an alternative concept to add some additional parking spaces along Matunuck Beach Road.
Town Manager, Steve Alfred, agreed with the Chief and identified areas available and restricted for parking by utility pole numbers. Alfred spoke specifically of the area from the southerly most point at the Vanilla Bean to the driveway to Mary Carpenter’s. The area , now prohibitive of parking would be allowed parking from 6 am to 5 pm with a two hour restriction. The area would then be opened without restriction for specific hours after 5 pm.
Alfred expressed concern with open parking throughout the nighttime hours.
“One of the concerns we would have is if we are going to open up parking for certain hours of the day there should also be conversely an ordinance that would allow for the prohibition of parking during certain hours as well. Particularly during the nighttime hours after 1:30 to 2:00 am, once the restaurants in that area are closed.”
There were three segments of road identified for possible future use.
Councilman James O’Neill put forth the request in support of the businesses in the area. O’Neill asked that oceanside parking be allowed up to Pole 70 and that a correction be made to extend parking in the approximately 45 ft. of space up to Pole 78.
“I would hope that the traffic study would begin yesterday,” said O’Neill. “I think this is very important that we solve this issue down there.”
Seawall plans included as a positive indicator for increased parking
O’Neill also made reference to the planned sheet pile wall to be constructed immediately to the West of the Ocean Mist at 895 Matunuck Beach Road. Referring to the current walls in place and the obstructed view of the water, O’Neill painted a picture of an area frequented by a large audience.
“I want to be prepared for that,” he said.
Alfred explained that the installation of the seawall would negate any net gain in parking during the time of construction and while the pile was being driven.
“You’re really not going to have a net gain,” he said. “Because what’s going to happen is when that installation goes in of sheetpile – that 200 feet – it’s probably going to be closed off, so whatever you extend is probably going to be net zero.”
Not everyone wants parking, drinking in the village
David Sherman who lives on Matunuck Beach Road was concerned for the safety of pedestrians in the area, with increased traffic during summer months, including those people frequenting the Ocean Mist, surfing and utilizing Town Beach.
Sherman was in favor of towing vehicles and said he was tired of calling and complaining.
“I’m in favor of more strict enforcement of the existing parking rules that we have,” he said. “The Town has been – sometimes they’re down there ticketing, sometimes they’re not.”
Sherman was also critical of expansion of business in the area, asking for less parking as opposed to any further expansion of business and parking.
“It’s really horrendous down there,” said Sherman. “It’s been ignored for the twenty years I’ve been down there.”
Sherman spoke of drinking and fights, vandalism and foul language, in an attempt to sway the council and town from allowing more parking. He stated that it was so bad that he and other residents were “waiting for shotguns.”
O’Neill pointed out that it wasn’t only the Ocean Mist and Tara’s that served alcohol and that concerns regarding congestion and traffic did not only lie with the two establishments in the village. He further noted that the establishments hired police details for busy nights.
“We have to look at density,” said O’Neill. “To put the blame on the couple of businesses here down on the water is absolutely incorrect. When you consider the amount of business that the Vanilla Bean does and the fact that we have zoning for the trailer parks that don’t have any limit on the number of automobiles.”
81% of all Town parking tickets are issued in Matunuck
Chief Vespia responded, providing statistics and ensuring the Council that there had been a “full court press” in Matunuck during the summer due to complaints. Vespia also noted that there was no history of pedestrian accidents in the Village.
The council in a unanimous vote increased parking in limited areas and agreed without vote to engage the services of a traffic engineer to study the entire traffic issue in Matunuck.